Graphical Visualization

The graphical visualization of ProB [1] enables the user to easily write custom graphical state representations in order to provide a better understanding of a model. With this method, one assembles a series of pictures and writes an animation function in B. Each picture can be associated to a specific state of a B variable or expression. Then, depending on the current state of the model, the animation function in B stipulates which pictures should be displayed where. We now show how this animation can be done with very little effort.

As an alternative you can also specify CUSTOM_GRAPH definitions to render the current state as graph laid out by GraphViz. In addition, ProB also supports more powerful visualizations based on SVG and HTML in the form of VisB.

The Graphical Animation Model

The animation model is very simple. It is based on individual images and a user-defined animation function, which are both defined in the DEFINITIONS section of the animated machine as follows:

1. Each image is given a number and its source file location by using the following definition: ANIMATION_IMGx == "filename", where x is the number of the image and "filename" is its path to a gif image file.

2. A user-defined animation function fa is evaluated to recompute the graphical output for every state. The graphical output of fa is known as the graphical visualization, which consists of a two-dimensional grid. Each cell in the grid can contain an image. The function uses the variables r (for row) and c (for column) to determine in which cell the image will be displayed. An image can appear multiple times in the grid.

The function fa is declared by defining ANIMATION_FUNCTION and ideally should be of type INTEGER * INTEGER +-> INTEGER. If the function fa is defined for r and c, then the animator should display the image with number fa(r,c) at row r and column c. If the function is undefined at this position, no image is displayed in the corresponding cell.

Notes: ProB will try and convert your expression to INTEGER * INTEGER +-> INTEGER (see below). Instead of an ANIMATION_IMGx one can also declare ANIMATION_STRx definitions for textual representations. If there is no image or string definition for the number fa(r,c) or if fa(r,c) is no number then ProB will try and display the result in pretty-printed textual format.

The dimension of the grid is computed by examining the minimum and maximum coordinates that occur in the animation function. More precisely,

the rows are in the range min(dom(dom(fa)))..max(dom(dom(fa))) and

the columns are in the range min(ran(dom(fa)))..max(ran(dom(fa))).

We take the B machine of the sliding 8-puzzle as an example. In the 8-puzzle, the tiles are numbered. Every tile can be moved horizontally and vertically into an empty square. The final configuration is reached whenever all the tiles are in order.

The B machine of the 8-puzzle is as follows:

DEFINITIONS INV == (board: ((1..dim)*(1..dim)) -->> 0..nmax);
GOAL == !(i,j).(i:1..dim & j:1..dim => board(i|->j) = j-1+(i-1)*dim);
CONSTANTS dim, nmax
PROPERTIES dim:NATURAL1 & dim=3 & nmax:NATURAL1 & nmax = dim*dim-1
 MoveDown(i,j,x) = PRE i:2..dim & j:1..dim & 
                       board(i|->j) = 0 & x:1..nmax & board(i-1|->j) = x
                   THEN board := board <+ {(i|->j)|->x, (i-1|->j)|->0}
 MoveUp(i,j,x) = PRE i:1..dim-1 & j:1..dim &
                          board(i|->j) = 0 & x:1..nmax & board(i+1|->j) = x
                 THEN board := board <+ {(i|->j)|->x, (i+1|->j)|->0}
 MoveRight(i,j,x) = PRE i:1..dim & j:2..dim &
                        board(i|->j) = 0 & x:1..nmax & board(i|->j-1) = x
                    THEN board := board <+ {(i|->j)|->x, (i|->j-1)|->0}
 MoveLeft(i,j,x) = PRE i:1..dim & j:1..dim-1 &
                       board(i|->j) = 0 & x:1..nmax & board(i|->j+1) = x
                   THEN board := board <+ {(i|->j)|->x, (i|->j+1)|->0}

On the left side of the following Figure, the non-graphical visualization is generated by ProB. It is readable, but the graphical visualization at the right side is much easier to understand.

Puzzle graphical1.png

The graphical visualisation is achieved with very little effort by writing in the DEFINITIONS section, the following animation function, as well as the image declaration list:

ANIMATION_FUNCTION == ( {r,c,i|r:1..dim & c:1..dim & i=0} <+ board);
ANIMATION_IMG0 == "images/sm_empty_box.gif"; /* empty square */
ANIMATION_IMG1 == "images/sm_1.gif"; /* square with 1 inside */
ANIMATION_IMG2 == "images/sm_2.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG3 == "images/sm_3.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG4 == "images/sm_4.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG5 == "images/sm_5.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG6 == "images/sm_6.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG7 == "images/sm_7.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG8 == "images/sm_8.gif"; /* square with lightblue 8 inside */

Each of the three integer types in the signature can be replaced by a deferred or enumerated set, in which case our tool translates elements of this set into numbers. In the case of enumerated sets, the number is the position of the element in the definition of the set in the SETS clause. Deferred set elements are numbered internally by ProB, and this number is used. (Note however, that the whole animation function has to be of the same type; otherwise the animator will complain about a type error.) To avoid having to produce images for simple strings, one can use a declaration ANIMATION_STRx == "my string" to define image with number x to be automatically generated from the given string.

Typical patterns for the animation function are as follows:

  • A useful way to obtain a function of the required signature is to write a set comprehension of the following form:
{row,col,img | row:1..NrRow & col:1..NrCols & P}, 
 where P is a predicate which gives img a value depending on row and col.

  • Another useful pattern is to write one function for default images and then use the override operator to replace the default images only when needed:
DefaultImages <+ CurrentImages

This was used in the 8-Puzzle by setting as default the empty square (image 0), which is then overriden by the partially defined board function.

  • or to write multiple definitions of the animation function. More clearly, we define one animation function for default images and another one for current images as follows:

Note: as of version 1.4 of ProB you can define multiple animation functions (e.g., ANIMATION_FUNCTION1, ANIMATION_FUNCTION2, ...) each overriding its predecessor.

This was used next in the Sudoku example.

  • Translation Predicates between user sets and numbers (extension above can directly handle user sets but does not work well if we need a special image for undefined,...)

Further Examples

Below we illustrate how the graphical animation model easily provides interesting animations for different models.


The scheduler specification taken from [2] is as follows:

MACHINE scheduler
SETS PID = {process1,process2,process3}
VARIABLES active, ready, waiting
INVARIANT active <: PID & ready <: PID & waiting <: PID &
          (ready /\ waiting) = {} & active /\ (ready \/ waiting) = {} &
          card(active) <= 1 & ((active = {}) => (ready = {}))
INITIALISATION active := {} || ready := {} || waiting := {}
 new(pp) =
  SELECT pp : PID & pp /: active & pp /: (ready \/ waiting)
  THEN waiting := (waiting \/ { pp })
 del(pp) =
  SELECT pp : waiting
  THEN waiting := waiting - { pp }
 ready(rr) = 
  SELECT rr : waiting
  THEN waiting := (waiting - {rr}) ||
       IF (active = {})
       THEN active := {rr}
       ELSE ready := ready \/ {rr} 
 swap = 
  SELECT active /= {}
  THEN waiting := (waiting \/ active) ||
       IF (ready = {}) THEN active := {}
        ANY pp WHERE pp : ready
        THEN active := {pp} || ready := ready - {pp}

The left side of the following Figure shows the non-graphical animation of the machine scheduler, and the right side shows its graphical animation obtained using ProB.

Scheduler graphvis1.png

The graphical visualization is done by writing in the DEFINTIONS section the following animation function. Here, we need to map PID elements to image numbers.

IsPidNrci == p=process1 & i=1) or (p=process2 & i=2) or (p=process3 & i=3));
 ({1|->0|->5, 2|->0|->6, 3|->0|->7} \/ {r,c,img|r:1..3 & img=4 & c:1..3} <+
 ({r,c,i| r=1 & i:INTEGER & c=i & #p.(p:waiting & IsPidNrci)} \/
 {r,c,i| r=2 & i:INTEGER & c=i & #p.(p:ready & IsPidNrci)} \/
 {r,c,i| r=3 & i:INTEGER & c=i & #p.(p:active & IsPidNrci)} ));
ANIMATION_IMG1 == "images/1.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG2 == "images/2.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG3 == "images/3.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG4 == "images/empty_box.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG5 == "images/Waiting.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG6 == "images/Ready.gif";
ANIMATION_IMG7 == "images/Active.gif"

The previous animation function of scheduler can also be rewritten as follows:

 ( {1|->0|->5, 2|->0|->6, 3|->0|->7} \/ {r,c,img|r:1..3 & img=4 & c:1..3} );
ANIMATION_FUNCTION == ({r,c,i| r=1 & i:PID & c=i & i:waiting} \/
                       {r,c,i| r=2 & i:PID & c=i & i:ready} \/
                       {r,c,i| r=3 & i:PID & c=i & i:active}


Using ProB we can also solve Sudoku puzzles. The machine has the variable Sudoku9 of type 1..fullsize-->(1..fullsize+->NRS), where NRS is an enumerate set {n1, n2, ...} of cardinality fullsize.

The animation function is as follows:

Nri == ((Sudoku9(r)(c)=n1 => i=1) & (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n2 => i=2) &
        (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n3 => i=3) & (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n4 => i=4) &
        (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n5 => i=5) & (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n6 => i=6) &
        (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n7 => i=7) & (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n8 => i=8) &
        (Sudoku9(r)(c)=n9 => i=9) 
ANIMATION_FUNCTION == ({r,c,i|r:1..fullsize & c:1..fullsize & i=0} <+
                       {r,c,i|r:1..fullsize & c:1..fullsize &
                       c:dom(Sudoku9(r)) & i:1.. fullsize & Nri}

The following Figure shows the non-graphical visualization of a particular puzzle (left), the graphical visualization of the puzzle (middle), as well as the visualization of the solution found by ProB after a couple of seconds (right).

Sudoku graphvis1.png

Note that it would have been nice to be able to replace Nri inside the animation function simply by i = Sudoku9(r)(c). While our visualization algorithm can automatically convert set elements to numbers, the problem is that there is a type error in the override: the left-hand side is a function of type INTEGER*INTEGER+->INTEGER, while the right-hand side now becomes a function of type INTEGER*INTEGER+->NRS. One solution is to write multiple definitions of the animation function. In addition to the standard animation function, we can define a default background animation function. The standard animation function will override the default animation function, but the overriding is done within the graphical animator and not within a B formula. In this way, one can now rewrite the above animation as follows:

ANIMATION_FUNCTION_DEFAULT == ( {r,c,i|r:1..fullsize & c:1..fullsize & i=0} );
ANIMATION_FUNCTION == ({r,c,i|r:1..fullsize & c:1..fullsize &
                       c:dom(Sudoku9(r)) & i:1.. fullsize & i = Sudoku9(r)(c)}

Other Features

One can define actions for right clicks and mouse clicks and drags:


ANIMATION_CLICK(fromcol,fromrow,tocol,torow) == SUBST

The allowed substitutions are currently limited:

  • ANY, LET: to introduce wild cards; predicates will not (yet) be evaluated !!
  • IF-ELSIF-ELSE: conditions have to be evaluable using the parameters only
  • CHOICE: to provide multiple right click actions

One can set the font being used using ProB preferences. The following leads to a Monospaced font being used, making lining up of columns easier:


The following preferences can be used to control padding around cells:


The following preference can be used to disable the custom graphical visualization view:


One can control justification of animation strings using either of the two following DEFINITIONS:



  1. M. Leuschel, M. Samia, J. Bendisposto and L. Luo: Easy Graphical Animation and Formula Viewing for Teaching B. In C. Attiogbé and H. Habrias, editors, Proceedings: The B Method: from Research to Teaching, pages 17-32, Nantes, France. APCB, 2008.
  2. B. Legeard, F. Peureux, and M. Utting. Automated boundary testing from Z and B. Proceedings of FME’02, LNCS 2391, pages 21–40. Springer-Verlag, 2002.